MILLBREA (CBS SF) – Peninsula congresswoman Jackie Speier plans to spend the next five days limiting herself to eating on a budget of $4.50 per day—which she says is the budget of a typical food stamps recipient.

At a community roundtable in Millbrae this morning, Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), said she hopes her experience will help highlight some of the difficulties facing the estimated 45 million Americans who use food stamps to survive.

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“It is the lifeline of people who are poor,” Speier said. “The alarming part about this is that the numbers are growing.”

The poverty rate in the U.S. is at a historic high of more than 15 percent, and roughly 100,000 people in San Mateo County use food stamps, Speier said.

Under two separate budget proposals currently being considered in Congress, the food stamp program could face huge budget cuts, Speier said.

“The program is in jeopardy right now,” she said.

Speier displayed some of the items she was able to purchase for her first day of living on a food stamp budget: a bag of coffee and a loaf of bread from the Dollar Warehouse; a can of Campbell’s low sodium chicken noodle soup; and a can of sweet peas, possibly to put in a tuna casserole later in the week.

“And this is my treat for the week,” Speier said, holding up a box of microwave popcorn packets.

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May Fong, chairwoman of the Consumer Education Department at City College of San Francisco, said that making nutritionally sound choices when shopping for food is important, but that people on food stamps rarely have the time or means to comparison shop, or consider alternatives to ready-made meals or fast food.

“Nutrition is secondary,” Fong said. “You also have to think about survival.”

Speier said she plans to chronicle her five-day experience on her Faceboook page at



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